2015 Jubilarian – Judith Anne (John Chrysostom) Eliassen
Sister Judith Eliassen grew up in Detroit with her three brothers and one sister. She attended public school until eighth grade, when she transferred to St. Mary of Redford.
She received a scholarship to attend Marygrove College where she majored in biology and minored in chemistry and math for a career in medical research. During college, she worked in her family restaurant where she met many movie stars who stayed in the hotel attached to the restaurant. Later, she worked at Henry Ford Hospital, in the cancer research lab.
Sister Judith was drawn to the kindness of her biology professor who was interested in her spiritual life as well as academics. She was particularly inspired by a gathering led by Sister Mary Emil where, Sister Judith says, “My heart just resonated with everything she said.”
She became involved with social justice work, and for a time, corresponded with missionary sisters. After realizing that a good education allows the freedom to explore ministries and experiencing the spirit and camaraderie of the IHM Sisters, Sister Judith joined the community.
She took education courses at the University of Michigan during the summers of her postulancy and then attended Purdue for her Master of Science degree. Her first mission was at St. Mary Academy, where she taught religion and science for 10 years. From there, she went to Holy Redeemer High School, ministering in many capacities for the next 24 years. She worked as the assistant principal, initiator and director of alumni, initiator and director of development, director of public relations, academic advisor and coordinator of chemical dependency education at Holy Redeemer.
After taking a sabbatical, Sister Judith went to work at Marygrove College where she tutored for two years and served as the coordinator of student academic enrichment for three years. Since 2007, she has been the director of the teacher education academic support lab.
Sister Judith has enjoyed every opportunity she has had since joining the community, “even if I didn’t know I would enjoy it – or didn’t know I would be doing it!” It was because of her vows that she feels she has had all her opportunities. “I never had to worry about having a job … someone could see the whole picture. Where are the needs?”
Sister Judith appreciated the freedom offered by her vows – the freedom to minister. People’s needs inspire her to continue her work. She likes to keep on top of current events and politics by getting involved and writing letters to Congress. “Wherever you can, move in, speak up or write a letter. That is going to make a difference. And that is where I am today … advocate for the poor.” Sister Judith uses a fund that her father left her to support those in need in her parish.